Immediately after Paul Ryan concluded his acceptance speech for the Republican Party's vice presidential nomination on Wednesday, the media sought ways to tear down the Wisconsin Congressman's indictment of the failures of the Obama administration. In particular, networks and newspapers attempted to knock down Ryan's accurate claim that President Obama promised to keep open a GM plant that closed in 2009.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and PolitiFact quickly labeled Ryan's criticism as "false," claiming Obama made no such promise and that the plant closed before he took office. But as The Examiner's Conn Carroll detailed on Thursday, that supposed "fact check" was false:
In October 2008 Obama doubled down on his promise to keep Janesville plant open: "As president, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America"....In April 2009, four months after Obama was inaugurated, GM idled production of medium-duty trucks....Today the GM facility in Janesville still has not been retooled “so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs,” as Obama promised.
It's one thing for PolitiFact to get it wrong, but the entire liberal media establishment seized on the convenient talking point and ran with it.
A Thursday Washington Post editorial board article entitled "Mr. Ryan's misleading speech," proclaimed: "Emblematic of the liberties Mr. Ryan took was his depiction of the hometown auto plant whose shuttering he implicitly blamed on Mr. Obama — even though the plant closed before the president was inaugurated."
In The New York Times, David Firestone ranted: "An army of fact-checkers swarmed around Paul Ryan's acceptance speech last night, and the verdict was swift and unanimous: lies, omissions, a sweeping rewrite of recent history....Take the GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, which he suggested closed because of President Obama, when it really shut down in 2008, before he took office."
Mere moments after Ryan finished his address to the GOP convention Wednesday night, ABC's Democratic operative turned Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos eagerly touted: "I got an e-mail from a top Democrat saying the speech was audacious in its dishonesty."
NBC Today host Matt Lauer on Thursday similarly relied on Democratic spin to question the speech: "Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, said, 'Forty minutes of vitriol and half a dozen previously debunked attacks.' Was it an honest speech or was it just a campaign convention speech?"
That night, on NBC's Nightly News, political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd lectured Ryan: "...some of his most effective lines have raised some eyebrows because of either facts he changed or simply left out....what he said many times was technically factual, by what he left out, actually distorted the actual truth."
In an interview with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Thursday, CNN host Piers Morgan made his attempt at a fact check: "But there were a lot of question marks, I think, raised, about some of what he was saying, notably the GM plant story, which by any real criteria was disingenuous, to put it mildly. Would you accept that?...it closed down under George Bush, in December of that year." Walker corrected him: "Announced that it closed down. It actually closed down in 2009..."
In an interview with Ryan himself on Thursday, CNN's Wolf Blitzer continued to suggest the remarks were untrue: "Now the GM plant in Janesville, you're getting some grief on that. Do you want to revise and amend what you said?...they announced that plant was shutting down in June 2008. That was during the Bush administration."
This is the perfect example of what happens when major media outlets outsource journalism, rather than check the facts for themselves. For many of them, it was probably just too good to check.